Dalai Lama supporters protest Russian visa refusal

MOSCOW - A few dozen supporters of the Dalai Lama rallied in front of the Foreign Ministry building on Tuesday to protest the Russian government's refusal to grant a visa to the exiled leader of Tibetan Buddhists.

The group of Buddhists and other supporters held portraits of the Dalai Lama and signs reading "Give the Dalai Lama a visa" and "All religions are equal."

It was the latest in a series of protests since the government's August visa refusal. The Foreign Ministry said the visa was denied because the trip, planned for mid-September to several predominantly Buddhist regions of Russia, had a "political orientation" and included members of the Tibetan government-in-exile. The ministry said it was taking into account China's "sharply negative" view of the Dalai Lama's political activities.

It was the second time in a year that Russia denied entry to the Dalai Lama.

Tuesday's protest was organized by the liberal Yabloko party.

Meanwhile, a top official in the Russian Orthodox Church said he understood Russian Buddhists' disappointment about the visit's cancellation, but defended the government's decision as being in the state's interests.

"Part of the responsibility for the situation can be attributed to the Dalai Lama himself," said Metropolitan Kirill, head of the church's foreign relations department, according to the Interfax news agency.